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A delegate checks out a souvenir t-shirt on the first day of the federal New Democratic Party's weekend national policy convention Friday, April 12, 2013 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A delegate checks out a souvenir t-shirt on the first day of the federal New Democratic Party's weekend national policy convention Friday, April 12, 2013 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

NDP takes moderate line in updated preamble to party constitution Add to ...

The New Democratic Party is reaching out to centrist Canadians after severing some of its socialist tethers.

A large majority of delegates at the party’s biannual policy convention approved revisions to the preamble to the NDP constitution Sunday that replaced strident anti-capitalist doctrine with more moderate language. The terminology change signals the modernization of the party, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters. “It’s a way for us to reach out beyond our traditional base and talk to Canadians who might share our vision, might share our goals, but who weren’t too sure of what we stood for.”

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The convention was about approving the policy that could form the basis of an election platform. But Mr. Mulcair, whose leadership was approved by a resounding 93.2 per cent of the delegates, said it was also a turning point.

The first two years after the party’s success in the past election were spent dealing with the death of former leader Jack Layton, a protracted leadership race, and acclimatizing a large number of new MPs to politics, said Mr. Mulcair. Now is the time to pivot toward the future, he said.

“The NDP is going to form government in 2015,” said. “The way we’re going to do it is to reach out beyond our traditional base and talk to progressives across the country and make them realize that only one result is possible if we want to get rid of Stephen Harper. The only party that can replace him is the NDP.”

His confident words come as the NDP has dropped in the polls and as the Liberals move forward with a charismatic new leader in Justin Trudeau. But Mr. Mulcair does appear to be coming away from the meeting with a party that has, for the most part, united behind him.

The preamble to the party constitution was, by far, the most contentious item on the agenda of the three-day convention and it was dispatched in surprisingly short order.

Many of the more left-leaning members of the party argued that the changes would strip the New Democratic Party, which was founded in socialism, of its soul. And officials were expecting a heated debate.

But, with just a couple of people having spoken to the motion, one of the delegates asked that the matter be put to a vote. The majority agreed, then raised their orange cards to approve the new wording.

Barry Weisleder, leader of the NDP’s socialist caucus, promised to revive the debate at future conventions.

But other New Democrats who did not agree with the changes said the rewording of the preamble was not a make or break issue.

“It’s worth fighting for what the party stands for, the principle and the roots of the party,” said Julius Arscott of Toronto who said he believes the NDP would be better off embracing its socialist roots. But “nobody that I know in the socialist caucus or in other groups or even folks not in any groups within the party is going to leave over this.”

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